The Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area actually began its life as a shallow sea. It eventually took its shape from the second of two glaciers that once covered the area. The marsh that was left behind from the second glacier attracted an abundance of wildlife, drawing Native Americans, settlers, and sportsmen to the area. Though the marsh was drained for agriculture, the Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area remains a beautiful example of Illinois wildlife.
The Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Marina rents boats from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The boat launch is located at the Marina. The lake spans fifty-eight acres of the Recreation Area. With a maximum depth of twenty-one feet, the lake houses largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, and bullhead. The recent addition of muskie and northern pike make this lake a favorite fishing site. Fishing is permitted during park hours only. Night fishing is not permitted.
The Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area is a popular hunting site due to its designation as a state Pheasant Hunting site. The state releases pheasants daily during hunting season. Additionally, hunters may pursue deer during hunting season using a bow and arrows. Shotguns may be used to hunt dove and squirrel.
The Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area houses eight miles of walking trails. These trail range in difficulty for easy to moderate. From the trails, hikers view such varied landscapes as the lake, prairie land, pine plantations, and hardwood forests. The trails double as cross-county ski trails during the winter months.
Situated on three hundred and sixty-nine acres, the Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area showcases the varied landscape of Illinois. Two and one-half miles of shoreline surround the lake. Rolling hills covered with hardwoods and pines form the landscape in the southern half of the park. Grasslands comprise the northern half of the park. The native flora features wildflowers, bluebells, prairie anemone, yarrow, daisies, and a myriad of other flowers blooming from early spring until late fall. Opportunities to observe the animals in their natural habitat abound. The recreation area houses white-tailed deer, squirrels, rabbits, and raccoons. Goldfinches, chickadees, and nuthatches share space with numerous other species of birds.
The Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area offers one major campsite, the Chief Keokuk Campground. The campsite accommodates seventy recreational vehicles, with an additional twenty-five tent sites. A shower building and a dump station are available to campers during the summer season.
Nine picnic areas are scattered throughout the recreation area. Most of the areas surround the lake. The picnic areas include a table and grill. Two pavilions, the Chief Senachwine Shelter the Chief Annawan, provide a lovely setting for a family gathering, a holiday celebration, or a wedding reception. The Chief Senachwine Shelter is available by advanced reservation only. The remaining eight sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Ryan’s Round Barn, located near the park’s entrance, is one of the largest round barns in the country. Constructed in 1910, the barn stands over eighty feet tall and has a diameter of eight-five feet. Religious groups first constructed round barns throughout the area. The shape was thought to provide no hiding place for the devil. Ryan’s Round Barn is open for tours on select Saturdays during the summer season.
The Bishop Hill Historical Site is located just a short distance from the Johnson Sauk Trail Recreation Area. Museums, art galleries, and local festivals entertain visitors during the summer months.
Francis Park features the home of Frederick Francis. Mr. Francis constructed this unique building in 1890. Constructed of native wood, stone, and brick, this house features running water, an air-cooling system, and radiant heat – well before electricity had reached the area. Other interesting features include disappearing doors and windows.
The Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area is open from sunrise until 10:00 PM from May 1 through November 1. From November 1 through May 1, the park is open from sunrise to sunset. For additional information, please visit the park’s website at http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/r1/johnson.htm.